From JewishVeg – a powerful video

I have been vegetarian for many years. A video of a presentation in a Philadelphia synagogue moved me to take the next step and explore a completely plant-based diet more seriously, that is, veganism. The video is from Jewish Vegetarians of North America and features Alex Hershaft, Holocaust survivor, speaking movingly about animal rights and veganism. This is the video:

Tomato Soup

Simple Tomato Soup - My Favorite!
Simple Tomato Soup – My Favorite!

Sometimes simple is best, and this tomato soup is a great example of that wisdom. It’s so quick and easy to make, it’s probably one of my favorite soups, and it always gets rave reviews whenever I share it.

Yesterday I went to a music event. I found out at the last-minute I was supposed to bring food. No problem! I always have some of my homemade spelt challah on hand, so I quickly made a batch of this delightful tomato soup and took it in a crock pot along with a loaf of challah. It was a hit, especially because there was a surprise vegan in the crowd and a lot of people with weight or heart issues.

Don’t think of it as a heart-healthy soup even though it is. Just think of it as a delicious, comforting soup, 100% real food.

Ingredients (Makes 1-1.5 gallons)

  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup
  • Spanish onion, 1 large
  • Plum tomatoes, 30
  • Ginger root, 1-2″ piece
  • Salt, 1 TB
  • Hot paprika, 1 tsp
  • Basil, fresh, 10-20 leaves
  • Water, 1/2 cup, opt.

Procedure

  1. Put the extra virgin olive oil in a large soup pot.
  2. Chunk the onion and add to the pot.
  3. Peel the ginger root, cut into chunks and add to the pot.
  4. Halve the tomatoes and add to the pot.
  5. Add seasonings (salt, hot paprika), but hold the basil.
  6. The tomatoes will produce enough liquid to cook themselves, but you can speed the process a little by adding 1/2 cup of water. This makes the soup a little less thick, and since I can always add water at the end to reach my desired consistency, I prefer to hold off on the water and just cook the tomatoes in their own juice.
  7. Cover the pot and turn on low heat. Stir occasionally.
  8. When done, remove from heat and puree (I use my VitaMix, which makes a beautiful, creamy-seeming soup, but people tell me their regular blenders work just as well).
  9. Return puree to pot.
  10. Take about a cup of the soup and return it to the VitaMix or blender bowl. Add the basil leaves, roughly chopped and pulse a few times. You’ll want to be able to see chopped basil pieces in the soup.
  11. Add the basil-soup mix back to the pot. I love basil and use lots, and I think it adds a brightness to the soup that it needs, but add the mix back to your taste.
  12. Check seasoning and enjoy.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Music, healthy local foods and the joy of living fill the streets

My treasures from the Woodstock Farmers Market this week: sorrel, sweet pea and mustard microgreens, spinach and asparagus.
My treasures from the Woodstock Farmers Market this week: sorrel, sweet pea and mustard microgreens, spinach and asparagus.

Like the opening day of the Woodstock Farmers Market, in fact each day of the Market, everything on the Square felt festive this past Saturday. Although it rained the night before, by morning the sun occasionally peeked through the clouds, taking some of the early spring chill out of the air.

Gloria Burchfeld and Andy Andrick specialize in 60s music and Americana, singing at local venues, at Off Square Music events and at fairs and festivals.
Gloria Burchfeld and Andy Andrick specialize in 60s music and Americana, singing at local venues, at Off Square Music events and at fairs and festivals.

Andy Andrick and Gloria Burchfeld from Off Square Music played and sang 60s music and Americana from the gazebo in the center of the Square, and booths filled with produce and other farm products were spread along its paths and on the streets around its edge. It’s still early enough in the spring that everyone is excited to be outdoors, and the Market pathways were crowded with people greeting each other and shopping.

This week, I went to the Market with my son, Jeremy, who tried out a cup of iced caramel brulee latte from Ethereal Confections, our delightful local confectionery, before we started our path around and through the Market. He enjoyed that so much that the first thing he wanted to do when we returned four days later for a Stage Leftovers performance at Stage Left Cafe was get another cup! His punch card will fill up pretty quickly, I imagine.

Here are the treasures I brought home this week, all green and making me feel like it’s finally spring! In the microgreens department, I got sorrel, sweet pea greens and mustard from Troy at Edmond’s Acres. I also picked up some asparagus at that stand. My find this week was the plump bag of fresh, organic spinach I got from Elaine Book at Providence Farm, Belvidere. The spinach was over-wintered, and it came in strong, very early.

Plump bags of early spinach that was percolating over the winter.
Plump bags of early spinach that was percolating over the winter.
Book of Providence Farm, Belvidere.
Elaine Book of Providence Farm, Belvidere.

Jeremy stopped by the Riemer Family Farm table to visit with owners Bryce and Jen Riemer and arrange to bring home the bacon, and we checked out the table of a new vendor in the Market, Ludwig Farmstead Creamery, with their award-winning raw milk artisan cheeses. This Certified Humane Creamery is getting ready to enter a market niche that is currently under-served when their cheeses are certified kosher. I purchased a cheese that will soon have a “heksher,” a kosher certification, and Jeremy bought their spicy Habanero.

Jeremy stopped by the Riemer Family Farm table so he could arrange to bring home the bacon.
Jeremy stopped by the Riemer Family Farm table so he could arrange to bring home the bacon. Notice the iced caramel brulee latte sitting there on the table!
Bryce & Jen Riemer of Riemer Family Farm.
Bryce & Jen Riemer of Riemer Family Farm.

We continued to wander around the Square, visiting with our friends, until we came to my good friend, Jaci, world’s best cookie maker. She had a special surprise for us this week and for anyone with kids or grandkids who are into Minecraft: Jaci’s Cookies Minecraft Cookies! Of course we had to get one for my grandson, Zachary.

Jaci Krandell, owner of Jaci's Cookies and Woodstock's own cookie maker par excellence!
Jaci Krandell, owner of Jaci’s Cookies and Woodstock’s own cookie maker par excellence!
Minecraft Cookies! Those went home with us. :-)
Minecraft Cookies! Those went home with us. 🙂

With two more stops, we finished our shopping for this week. Jeremy was envious of my popcorn last week, so we stopped by the Brook’s Farm table to get some for him from Rich. While we were there, we sampled some delicious “Butter Toffee” corn which I didn’t take home because I would have eaten it all up! And Jeremy picked up a jar of red raspberry preserves from Rosinski’s Produce in Antioch. We chatted about adventures picking wild black raspberries with our kids, which always resulted in blue-black juices from finger tips to elbows and all over little faces.

Jeremy getting his popcorn from Rich Brook of Brook Farm. And then there was all that “Butter Toffee” corn. Yummmmm.
Jeremy getting his popcorn from Rich Brook of Brook Farm. And then there was all that “Butter Toffee” corn. Yummmmm.
Jeremy picked up Red Raspberry Preserves from Rosinski's Farm, Antioch.
Jeremy picked up Red Raspberry Preserves from Rosinski’s Produce, Antioch.

Finally we headed into the center of the Square to enjoy the music and see what else was happening there. Have I ever mentioned how great it is to be in a town that attracts so many wonderful musicians? Andy and Gloria were still going strong with their toe-tapping music as they came up on three hours, and we sat to enjoy the beat for a little while.

On the way out, we stopped to pick up information about the week-long Orson Welles Centennial Festival and to visit with Marty Brunkalla, our very own local luthier. His beautiful custom-made stringed instruments are highly prized!

Would you believe our very own luthier? Marty Brunkalla makes highly prized handmade stringed instruments and is an amazing musician.
Would you believe our very own luthier? Marty Brunkalla makes highly prized handmade stringed instruments and is an amazing musician.

Our little town has it all, and it’s all gathered together on our Square on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. If you’re ever nearby, be sure to stop in and join the celebration.

Here are some things I made for lunch when I got home with my treasures:

I boiled the base of the asparagus stalks in a little water.
I boiled the base of the asparagus stalks in a little water.
I threw the stems of the micro greens in on top of the stalks for a few seconds.
I threw the stems of the micro greens in on top of the stalks for a few seconds.
I whizzed the cooked asparagus stalks and micro green stems with their water in my VitaMix and added a little oil and lemon and salt and pepper to make a sauce for the asparagus tips. We had that delicious little treat along with a micro green salad dressed in extra virgin olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper -- and some of the Ludwig Farmstead Creamery cheese with my homemade spelt challah. A perfect lunch after a perfect morning in the Market.
I whizzed the cooked asparagus stalks and micro green stems with their water in my VitaMix and added a little oil and lemon and salt and pepper to make a sauce for the asparagus tips. We had that delicious little treat along with a micro green salad dressed in extra virgin olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper — and some of the Ludwig Farmstead Creamery cheese with my homemade spelt challah. A perfect lunch after a perfect morning in the Market.
And for dessert - a green smoothie! I used some frozen organic pineapple, banana, organic spinach from the market, a little organic carrot, a little lemon and a little organic apple juice from the market. Delicious!
And for dessert – a green smoothie! I used some frozen organic pineapple, banana, organic spinach from the market, a little organic carrot, a little lemon and a little organic apple juice from the market. Delicious!

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Potato & Cabbage Soup with Fresh Dill

Once upon a time I searched on Pinterest for every cabbage recipe I could find. I love cooked cabbage! With all that hunting and pinning, two simple “recipes” that I created myself are still my favorites: sautéed cabbage “steaks” and this delicious Potato & Cabbage Soup.

I thought I was finished with my hearty soups for this season, but after I was ready to relax and enjoy those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, we got a cold snap. I keep reminding myself that I can count on those in May! So I made up some Potato & Cabbage Soup earlier this week to warm myself.

It does have that tantalizing little hint of spring in the dill.

Ingredients

  • Garlic, 8 cloves minced
  • Onion, 1 large Spanish, 1-2″ chunks
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 or cover the bottom of soup pot
  • Tomatoes, petite diced, 2 lb. (or a 28 oz. can of petite diced tomatoes)
  • Tomato paste, 6 oz. can
  • Chickpeas, 1/2 cup dried
  • Canellini beans, 1/2 cup dried
  • Red kidney beans, 1/2 cup dried
  • Carrots, 4-5 large sliced
  • Celery, 4 large stalks sliced
  • White cabbage, 1 whole small, 1-2″ chunks
  • Potatoes, 3 large, 1-2″ chunks
  • Salt, 2 TB (start with 1 TB and bring up to taste)
  • Cumin, 2 TB
  • Szeged hot paprika, 1 tsp., slightly rounded
  • Dill, fresh, 1 large bunch, minced
  • Water to cover

Procedure

  1. Rinse beans and add to a 2-4 quart pot, add plenty of water, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until barely al dente. Remove from heat, and set aside.
  2. Sauté garlic in extra virgin olive oil in a large soup pot.
  3. Add onion, carrots, celery and cabbage, and sauté for a short while.
  4. Add tomato paste and diced tomatoes to the mix and stir in.
  5. Add the barely cooked beans with their cooking liquid.
  6. Add water to cover. I added three quarts, but use the water to make it the consistency you like. Bring to a simmer and cook until flavors meld and potatoes can be pierced with a fork.
  7. Add seasonings and additional water if needed. I usually use about 1 TB of salt per gallon of soup, and this recipe makes about two gallons.
  8. Sprinkle minced dill in at the end of the cooking time reserving a little bit to sprinkle on servings.
  9. Serve and enjoy!

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Persian Barley, Rice & Bean Soup (Aash e-Jo)

Persian Barley, Rice & Bean Soup (Aash e-Jo)
Persian Barley, Rice & Bean Soup (Aash e-Jo)

One of the features of Middle Eastern food that I really appreciate is its tendency to mix things that I grew up thinking shouldn’t be mixed. Today the wisdom in the U.S. is still that two grains and three beans would be too much to load together in one meal. That it’s frequently done with great effects in Middle Eastern foods feels almost like a celebration to me.

Koshari is an example of this joyful piling together of starchy foods. Koshari is an Egyptian dish, a layering of rice, pasta, black lentils and chickpeas along with other ingredients. This delicious, creamy Persian soup, Aash e-Jo (barley, rice and 3 kinds of beans), is another example.

I started with a recipe from Persian Recipes. I made a few changes in the process so it would be easier to make, some changes in seasoning to suit my taste buds and a change in ingredients to make it vegan.

The result is a delicious, creamy, mildly seasoned soup with a nice hint of dill. I enjoyed the soup with a piece of my homemade spelt challah, of course.

Ingredients (10-12 servings)

  • Barley, 250 grams
  • Greens & herbs (parsley, cilantro, spinach, dill), 250-300 grams
  • Beans (garbanzo, white beans, kidney beans and lentils), 750 grams
  • Brown rice, 1 cup
  • Spanish onion, 1 large petite diced
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup
  • Coconut milk (full fat), 1-2 fourteen oz. cans
  • Salt, 2 TB
  • Hot paprika, 1 tsp.
  • Turmeric, 1 TB
  • Water, 3 quarts plus

Procedure

  1. Petite dice the Spanish onion and put into a soup pot with 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Saute until caramelized.
  2. Rinse beans (about 4 cups) and add to soup pot. Add three quarts water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer, cover and let cook until done.
  3. While the beans are cooking, prepare the barley in a second pot. Just place the barley in the pot and add at least three times the volume of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and let cook until done. Check the water periodically to be certain it covers the barley. When done, drain and set aside until the beans are cooked.
  4. Prepare the rice.  Please one cup of rinsed rice in a pot with 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and let cook until done. Drain, and set aside until the beans are cooked.
  5. Combine rice and barley in the soup pot with the beans and onion. Add seasonings and let continue to cook covered on low heat until the seasonings blend.
  6. When the soup is finished, add chopped spinach, cilantro and parsley. I always end up adding more than this because . . . well, I have more and I like veggies.
  7. Just before you’re ready to eat, stir in the minced dill (I used about a cup), reserving a little bit to sprinkle on top as you’re serving.

Enjoy!

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

To Market, to Market, to buy fresh . . .

My "finds" at the Woodstock Square Farmers Market opening day.
Here’s my bounty from the Woodstock Farmers Market on opening day, this past Saturday: fresh basil from BlueLoom (Keith & Nancy Johnson), a Spanish onion, red and purple potatoes and early kale from Edmonds Acres, my favorite popcorn from Brook Farm and a beautiful ceramic bowl from Woodstock High School art student, Tyler Owcarz.

 VEGGIES! Beautiful spring veggies!

It was a spectacular day on Saturday, a perfect day for the opening of the Woodstock Farmers Market. I love the Market and look forward to it moving back onto the Square each spring.

Keith Johnson, Market Director, has built this award-winning Farmers Market into a happening twice a week May through October on the historic Woodstock Square.  Off Square Music performers fill the surrounding area with music. There is no better way to celebrate spring and summer days than to greet friends and shop for local products accompanied by Woodstock’s talented musicians.

And it doesn’t end in October. Now we have a winter Market as well that meets two weeks a month in Building “D” at the McHenry County Fairgrounds.

What I made from my Woodstock Farmers Market goodies

One of my favorite stops is always Edmonds Acres. Troy Edmonds specializes in specialty garlic and onions, unique apples, fruit and vegetables, wild mushrooms and fall squash.

Troy Edmonds of Edmonds Acres in Marengo
Troy Edmonds of Edmonds Acres in Marengo.

I can always find something that I want to run home and cook up at Troy’s table, and Saturday was no exception. I combined that organic onion with some organic celery and carrots I had to make up my delicious Red Lentil Soup. This time instead of cilantro I added Troy’s early kale to the soup.

Red Lentil Soup topped with fresh kale and served in a ceramic bowl created by Tyler Owcarz of Woodstock North High School.
Red Lentil Soup topped with fresh kale and served in a ceramic bowl created by Tyler Owcarz of Woodstock High School.

I confess I had to have some right away in the beautiful bowl made by Tyler Owcarz of Woodstock that I purchased at the Woodstock High School table. Art students created about 100 small bowls that they are selling for $10 each to benefit the Woodstock Food Pantry.

Will the circle be unbroken…

And talk about the circle being unbroken! Not only did that bowl go from the High School to the Market to me and the Food Pantry . . . but Troy’s beautiful veggies went from his table to my pot to serve up to the musicians and audience at First Saturday, an open mic sponsored by Off Square Music that meets once a month at Unity Spiritual Center on Calhoun St. in Woodstock.

And now for the fresh basil from Keith and Nancy Johnson (BlueLoom) that I snipped onto the potatoes that I just couldn’t wait to cook up and eat: nothing says spring like fresh basil! I enjoyed it twice on Saturday, once with my potato lunch when I got home and again later with a juicy tomato snack.

Fresh red and purple potatoes ready for roasting with a little extra virgin olive oil and sea salt.
Fresh red and purple potatoes ready for roasting with a little extra virgin olive oil and sea salt.
And now ready to eat after roasting for a few minutes in a pre-heated hot oven.
And now ready to eat after roasting for a few minutes in a pre-heated hot oven. I snipped a little basil onto them. Yum!

So as I mentioned, I went to the First Saturday open mic that evening, which is always a wonderful music event. I didn’t get to service my popcorn addiction that evening, tho. You can bet I did the next evening!

I ran out of Rich Brook’s (Brook Farm, Harvard, IL) popcorn over the winter and was waiting eagerly for him to return to the Market. I don’t know how he does it, but that popcorn is sooooooo much better than what I can get in the store. I’m halfway through the bag I bought already! Guess I’ll have to plan to visit the Woodstock Farmers Market again next week.

All in all a wonderful day Saturday. Welcome back to the Woodstock Farmers Market!

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.